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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

I starting watching the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" last night. (I haven't finished yet, so don't spoil the ending for me.) Filmed in 1967, it's the story of a white 23-year-old woman who brings home a 37-year-old black man as her fiancee to parents who aren't especially happy about the situation. Additionally, they have known each other for 10 days, and are planning on getting married shortly.

It's interesting to speculate about whether there would be similarities or differences in the reactions of her parents today, 40 years later. In some families, I think there would be a huge difference and the parents would not have trouble with the racial disparity between the two; in some families, the reaction would be the same as 40 years ago. When you add on the age difference and the fact that they have known each other all of 10 days, then I can imagine most parents would be a bit upset about such a situation.

My parents have always been extremely open-minded. Growing up, I had friends of all differents faiths, races and backgrounds. My best friend in high school and college was a black girl who considered my father the dad she didn't really have (she had a very difficult relationship with her own father). Whoever I brought home was welcomed warmly. My parents always taught me that it was WHO the person was that counted rather than the color of their skin. I even worked for a number of years in an organization whose mission was race relations and diversity awareness. I feel very fortunate to have learned such lessons from my parents.

One of the things I found interesting about the movie was the fact that the woman, "Joey," doesn't see any reason why her parents should have issues with the racial differences between herself and her intended spouse. Because, even with being open-minded, it still is an issue. I think it's blind to pretend that society, especially in 1967, would have absolutely no problem with an inter-racial couple. Today, things are very different, but there are still implications and difficulties with such a relationship.

I actually encountered a similar situation a while back. A guy was suggested for me - religious, well-educated, good personality, stable job history. All the makings of a good shidduch. Except that he was black. Part of the reason that he was suggested to me was that my friends knew that if anyone was open-minded enough to even consider it, it was me.

I took the suggestion seriously, and gave it a lot of thought. In an Orthodox Jewish community, the racial difference is unfortunately not something that can be completely ignored. I thought a lot about the implications and the reactions that would most likely be received. Personally, I didn't think it would be such a problem for myself - I don't care that much about what people think and if they disapproved of such a pair, they aren't the kind of people I would want to associate with anyway. And I didn't think that any of my friends would have such problems, because again if they would, they are not the kind of people I tend to be friends with.

The thing that did trouble me about the situation was the thought of what my children would have to go through. I knew that there would be challenges and they would have to deal with the difficulties of the decision I had made. But I hoped that I would be able to raise children strong enough to deal with such challenges (though I am still not sure it's easy to give children that strength at the young ages they would have to deal with it).

Anyway, ultimately my decision was that the racial difference wasn't enough to stop me from dating someone who sounded like he had solid character. In the end, obviously, things didn't work out. But I'm glad I was forced to deal with the issue, and I'm happy that something external, under which a person has no control, didn't stand in my way.


  • "...the thought of what my children would have to go through ..."

    I have acquaintances who are "inter-married", a Jewess and a convert. He's black. Their children beautiful mulatto!

    My sound and firm advice to them was: make Aliyah. In the National Religious society in Israel people are accepted for their adherence to Jewish values and tradition, not by the color of their skin or the style of their streimel!

    By Blogger Yoel.Ben-Avraham, at 9/19/06, 3:14 PM  

  • I have to say that I was in this situations once. Short history
    Her: he's such a good boy. Mother is chassidish father is b"t
    Me: ok and?
    Her: He's learning full time in yerushalayim such a really good boy
    (I wonder how many times shes going to throw in that hes a good boy)
    Me: ok and?
    Her: well his mother is a convert. but very very religious..and he's SUCH a good boy
    (knew it)
    Me: uh huh...go on
    Her: well her boys were adopted
    (this just keeps getting better and better I know)
    Me: ok and?
    Her: well they converted too
    Me: Nu? Spit it out.
    Her: well the boys are um
    Me: um what?
    Her: well he's dark...but really such a good boy
    First reaction and forgive how ignorant it sounds
    Me: How dark?
    Her; Pretty dark
    Me: I have to think about this, Ill get back to you.

    Now I thought and weighed all the options you did. I thought no way was it fair to the kids. Black or even dark sefardi kids are few and far between in most frum schools. At least around where I live. I mean on top of all the other loopholes she threw at me the guy was just turning 18. I decided not to even meet because I knew what my answer would be. I don't think you were wrong to assume that things would be hard for your children. Shvartz is thrown around the frum community like it's the thing to do and no one thinks twice. I'm sure even you and I have laughed at some stupid joke here or there that would tear a mixed child's poor head up.

    By Blogger Sara with NO H, at 9/19/06, 3:41 PM  

  • well i really loved that part where u said that your parents are open minded...i don't know how other frum parents are but i was just wondering...

    if i lived in america,i would have love to visit you...:)

    By Anonymous h2oil, at 9/20/06, 6:37 AM  

  • Yoel -
    I'm sure your friend's children are very beautiful. As far as making aliyah, I wish that the picture you are portraying was completely accurate, however, from my experience, life in Israel isn't quite as blind to externalities as you are painting it.

    Sara (with no H) -
    It sounds like there were several reasons that this guy was not right for you. And I HATE, and do not tolerate, the use of racial slurs. My friends and acquaintances know this and refrain from using them around me.

    By Blogger Shoshana, at 9/20/06, 8:34 AM  

  • That is an interesting issue.
    Not something I'd think about unless it came up!
    But I guess race has to be considered the same as any other issue in terms of a relationship and the implications must be considered. Personally, I'd also not consider a problem for myself (open-minded etc) but you're right, it is an issue in society even if you yourself are ok with it.
    (does that make sense?)

    By Blogger ~ Sarah ~, at 9/20/06, 9:06 AM  

  • I appreciate open mindedness a lot, however this would be a huge issue as far as the kids go.
    You know they're going to suffer for it one way or another.
    Still my respect for looking further than the purely physical aspect.
    There's actually an update version of this movie called Guess Who with the opposite storyline, it's the black side that has issues with the white boyfriend.

    By Blogger Pragmatician, at 9/20/06, 12:07 PM  

  • you know, there are SO MANY things you write about that i THINK about! i'm married already (to a honkey, ha ha) but i've often wondered if i'd be willing to date or marry a black guy. i'm pretty open minded, but i know i have my hang-ups. i think if i ever had that opportunity when i was single, i'd think really hard like you did. i'd probably be willing to give it a shot, too. it's true that there are issues with the kids. i read a fascinating book of essays written by bi-racial kids, and they all had issues. of course, then there's the added weirdness of being black and jewish.

    By Blogger Maven, at 9/21/06, 1:38 AM  

  • Sarah -
    You do make sense. Unfortunately, there are things in society that you can't control.

    Prag -
    Welcome back! I have heard of the updated movie, but haven't seen it.

    Maven -
    It's not an easy decision. Sounds like quite an interesting book.

    By Blogger Shoshana, at 9/21/06, 9:13 AM  

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